There are three easy rules to remember when composting your organic waste at home - chop, mix and maintain.
Chop the compostables. The more you chop, the faster the decomposition process.
Mix dry-woody materials with moist-green ones for a balance of nutrients, air and water.
Maintain moisture level as damp as a wrung-out sponge. This helps compost break down and prevents it from becoming wet and smelly.
The Green Thumb Composter puts a little more effort into making compost happen quickly.
Step One: Select a suitable site.
This means a convenient, out-of-the-way spot. The area does not have to be large, a 4-cubic-foot pile of material will yield about 1 ton of compost. It should be relatively shaded and shielded from the wind to enhance the decomposition process. Avoid getting too close to trees where roots may eventually penetrate the pile.
Step Two: Enclose the site.
Containing compost will keep the yard neater, keep animals out of the pile, and will lead to more efficient composting. The enclosure should be at least 3 cubic feet, the smallest size considered practical. Snow fencing, chicken wire, concrete blocks, wooden pallet, hay bales, and wire mesh are all excellent materials that can be used to frame the site.
Step Three: Prepare the site.
To assure a properly ventilated, well-drained pile and quick composting, line the bottom with branches, cornstalks, straw or wooden slats.
Step Four: Collect your compostables.
Nitrogen (wet-green) materials include: grass clippings, fresh garden weeds, manure, coffee grounds with filters, vegetable and fruit scraps. Carbon (dry-brown) materials include: dry leaves, egg shells, hair, wood ash, straw or wood shavings, shredded paper and cardboard. Be sure not to include meat scraps, dairy products, pet manure, oils and bones, they attract animals and form maggots. In addition, leave glass, plastic, stone and metals out of your pile. These wastes should be recycled at your local recycling program.
Step Five: Shred or grind the material.
While this step is not always necessary, shredding will speed up the decomposition process and enable you to use your compost sooner.
Step Six: Form your compost pile.
Begin your compost pile with a 6-inch layer of collected organic material. Adequate moisture is essential at this point. Moisten the dry parts lightly and mix with 1- to 2-inch old compost, garden soil, manure or nitrogen fertilizer. This layer is vital to the success of the process because it maintains the organisms that cause decay and also helps to keep the nutrients and moisture in the pile.
Step Seven: Add to your pile.
Do not add thick layers of any kind of waste. Alternate layers of brown and green materials, keeping a 50/50 balance of wet to dry. Make sure no material layer is more than 4-inches high. Continue to repeat step six, mixing materials every two weeks, until the pile stands about 4 to 5 feet high. A wide range of materials ensures a nutrient rich compost pile.
Step Eight: Turn the compost.
Nature will take care of most of the work for now. It is advisable though to turn the pile every few days with a pitchfork or shovel if you would like to use the finished compost in a few months or so. Remember that turning the pile ensures all the material in the pile is fully decomposed. Also water the pile if it is looking too dry.
Step Nine: Using your compost.
The finished compost will have an earthy aroma, dark color, and crumbly texture. It can be used as a soil additive in your gardening projects. The material that is not ready, may be sifted out by using a fine screen and returned to the compost pile.